Preview: Lie to Me 1×1

I'm getting a blank

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox. Starts January 21st 2009

It’s rare to come away from a show with almost no opinion about it. Normally, you might come away loving it or hating it. You might even just like it a little or just decide it’s not very good.

But to come away with almost no feelings about it whatsoever? That’s not a good sign is it?

Plot
The average person tells three lies in ten minutes of conversation.

DR. CAL LIGHTMAN (Tim Roth, "The Incredible Hulk," "Reservoir Dogs") can detect the truth by analyzing a person’s face, body, voice and speech. When someone shrugs his shoulder, rotates his hand or raises his lower lip, Lightman knows he’s lying. By analyzing facial expressions, he can read feelings – from hidden resentment to sexual attraction to jealousy. But as Lightman well knows, his scientific ability is both a blessing and a curse in his personal life, where family and friends deceive each other as readily as criminals and strangers do. Lightman is the world’s leading deception expert, a scientist who studies facial expressions and involuntary body language to discover not only if you are lying but why.

From writer Samuel Baum ("The Evidence") and the executive producers of 24 and "Arrested Development" comes LIE TO ME, a compelling new drama series inspired by the scientific discoveries of Dr. Paul Ekman, a real-life specialist who can read clues embedded in the human face, body and voice to expose both the truth and lies in criminal investigations.

Lightman heads a team of experts at The Lightman Group who assist federal law enforcement, government agencies and local police with their most difficult cases. DR. GILLIAN FOSTER (Kelli Williams, "The Practice") is a gifted psychologist and Lightman’s professional partner who brings balance to the partnership by looking at the bigger picture while Lightman focuses on the details. He needs her guidance and insight into human behavior, whether he knows it or not. ELI LOKER (Brendan Hines, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES) is Lightman’s lead researcher, who is so uncomfortable with the human tendency to lie that he’s decided to practice what he calls "radical honesty." He says everything on his mind at all times and often pays the price. RIA TORRES (Monica Raymund, "Law and Order: SVU") is the newest member of the agency, and one of the few "naturals" in the field of deception detection. She has a raw, untrained ability to read people that makes her a force to be reckoned with.

Samuel Baum, Brian Grazer, David Nevins and Steven Maeda serve as executive producers on the series, which is produced by Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television. Robert Schwentke directed the pilot.

Is it any good?
Take a Fox show. Any show. In fact, take all of them, because Lie to Me is something of a melange of shows. There’s a big bit of Bones in there, a sizeable chunk of House: it’s Fox by numbers. And that’s the problem – almost everything about it seems familiar but done better elsewhere.

It feels like one of those shows that has a great premise (unfortunately, it’s Angela’s Eyes‘ premise, although this is like the yang to Angela’s Eyes‘ yin) but doesn’t know what to do with that premise. So Tim Roth’s character is a consultant, rather than working for some government body, yet manages to spend half the show investigating crimes rather than simply interviewing people then charging a great big fee. And since ultimately finding out that someone is lying isn’t really a strong plot, they have to throw in two or three plots about different liars into the episode, meaning you don’t really care about any of them.

In the manner of Bones, Roth has a female partner he might just be interested in; there’s also a bullshit high tech office for them to work from, and a team of dweebs to help. One dweeb relentlessly tells the truth in an effort to have a personality, while the other is a new recruit, a natural lie reader who does little beyond saying "Why are we doing this?" for the benefit of the audience.

Tim Roth is marvellous, as you’d expect, and hasn’t been forced to put on an American accent. But he’s still doing a Dr House – cynical, "everyone lies", bizarre anti-social behaviour, bad at relationships – and he’s little more than a plot function at the moment – although we know he was married and has a kid, we’ve got no real idea what he’s like in private, only that he’s good at spotting lies and keeping the information to himself unless it’s useful to him.

There are a few suggestions of greater depth to come further down the line, and Tim Roth is great to watch even if no one else on the show is. But the mysteries are bland, and the set-up silly and dull. One to skip, in all probability, unless it picks up very soon.

Here’s a YouTube promo for you and a behind-the-scenes featurette.